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Category: Lifestyle

Sleep matters. Getting the right amount of sleep not only helps your mind feel rested and focused, but it also has an effect on your physical health. Sleep is also important in managing your weight. Studies show that there are connections between lack of sleep and weight gain. For example, it’s thought that sleeplessness can affect how your body produces the substances ghrelin and leptin, which control how hungry you feel. Bad sleep can also affect your food preferences and even slow down your metabolism.

But knowing you need sleep and getting sleep are 2 very different things. Read on to learn more about what good sleep is and how you can get more of it.

Ghrelin is a hormone that is thought to increase the appetite. Leptin is a hormone that can suppress appetite. Lack of sleep can increase ghrelin and decrease leptin, causing you to feel hungrier.

Quantity AND Quality

A good night’s rest isn’t just about the amount of sleep you get, although that’s really important. It’s also about the quality of the sleep you get. Let’s explore the differences so you can understand what to watch out for.

The amount, or quantity, of sleep recommended for adults is 7 or more hours a night. When you regularly get less than that, it is called sleep deprivation. This can happen because you have a busy life and fill your days—and nights—with tasks. Your work schedule and other responsibilities may contribute to sleep deprivation as well.

When the sleep you do get is not quality sleep, that is called sleep deficiency. You may go to bed early enough to get the right amount of sleep, but you lie awake for hours, wake in the night, toss and turn, or never fully fall asleep. You start the day groggy, foggy, and still tired.

Make Room for Sleep

Now that we know how important sleep is, how can you improve both quantity and quality? There are several things you can do to make your routine and your bedroom sleep ready. You don’t have to do all of these things at once. Try changing one thing in your sleep routine and seeing how that works.

Sleep on a schedule. When you try to squeeze a little more time into your day, sleep is often the first thing that gets cut. Big changes in sleep schedules can affect your metabolism. The best way to ensure you get the right amount of sleep is to set a bedtime and a wake time and stick to it, even on the weekends. Try to limit any adjustments to that schedule to an hour or less. Staying up later or trying to catch up on sleep can interrupt your sleep patterns.

Wind down. Stress can interrupt sleep and even contribute to weight gain. Set aside time right before you go to bed to relax. About 30 minutes is recommended. Try some deep breathing or light stretches. You could also read or listen to soothing music. Find something you enjoy that is relaxing and make it part of your nightly routine.

Want more on how to make a new routine automatic? Check out How to form habits that move you toward your goals.

Cut the caffeine. Many people rely on caffeine to get through the day, but it can affect the quality of your sleep. Keep an eye on how much caffeine you are getting during the day and avoid it in the evenings.

Skip the screens. Phones, tablets, computers, and TVs are all part of our daily lives. They can keep your mind active and engaged, but that can also make it hard to wind down at night. The glow from these devices can also affect your levels of natural melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. Try turning off your devices at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Prep your room. Your bedroom should be reserved for sleep. But it often gets repurposed as a workspace, TV room, or even a playroom. Reclaim your room! Make it a space that is comfortable and welcoming for sleep. Consider:

  • Keeping the bedroom cool and comfortable, around 65 degrees 
  • Blocking the light with heavy curtains, a blanket, or using a sleep mask 
  • Reducing the noise by using ear plugs, a white noise machine, or a free white noise app 
  • Finding scents, such as lavender, that are soothing and calming to you and putting them in a diffuser or spraying them in the bedding. 
  • Investing in comfortable bedding, such as soft cool sheets and a firm pillow

Give Yourself a Break

The truth is that sometimes worrying about sleep can cause you to not get sleep. Give yourself some grace. Take it slow and do what works for you and your situation. It’s OK to make yourself and your health a priority. The good news is that the work you are doing to manage your weight may help improve sleep and improving your sleep habits may help you manage your weight. It’s a win/win and every tiny step matters.

Need more support to manage your sleep? Talk with your health care team. They are great partners and experts you can rely on when you need support.